The SmarK Retro Rant for Stampede Classics Vol. 2: Harts on Fire!
– Before we begin, I just have one thing to say: BE-LA-RUS! BE-LA-RUS! Hey, if it takes a miracle upset to give Canada an easier path to the gold medal, so be it. You have to think that Tommy Salo is gonna get ribbed for the rest of his life now, though.
– Anyway, f*ck Vince and his cartoon “action-adventureÃ¢â‚¬Â bullshit and hasbeens coming in to “saveÃ¢â‚¬Â the company, it’s time to haul out the classics, in this case Stampede Classics, a 5-tape set released commercially in the early 90s that did pretty well, I understand. I’ve got volume one somewhere in the Tape Collection From Hell (likely on an unlabelled tape) and the other 4 volumes on one tape, but at least it’s got a label so that’s the one I grabbed first. If I can manage to locate the first volume by some miracle of patience, I’ll do that one later. So we begin here, as this one covers, what else, the Hart family.
– Your host is, of course, the late Ed Whalen.
– Ed reminisces a bit about the early days of Stu’s career and gives the matchbook version of the formation of Stampede Wrestling.
– Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight title: Hubert Gallant v. Keith Hart. Keith, whose real career path was as a fireman, was never what you’d call the most talented of the Harts, as he stuck mainly to the mid-heavyweight division and tagging with Bret. As with most Stampede TV matches, we’re JIP at about the 10:00 mark. Keith takes Gallant down with a toehold and works on that. He stays on the leg with a figure-four, but Hubert reverses it. It actually turns into an interesting spot, as Keith then has to fight to get out of the hold again. Gallant pounds away and gets a gutwrench for two. Snapmare and kneedrop get two, but like an idiot he uses the injured knee. They fight over an abdominal stretch and Gallant wins. Keith escapes, but Gallant gets a backbreaker, but again on the injured knee. Keith finishes him with a figure-four at 6:04 to win the title. ** See, here’s an interesting point about the psychology involved here that I never really thought about until now for some reason: Wrestlers in North America always work “leftÃ¢â‚¬Â, which I assume everyone reading either already knows or has noticed by now. If you haven’t noticed that, watch a tape of any WWF or WCW show and you’ll notice that it’s always the left arm or leg that gets worked over. However, that leads to an instant problem, in that guys generally use that leg or arm for their major moves, and thus the psychology is instantly screwed up unless you play into the “Man, that guy is dumb for using the injured leg/arm to do that move!Ã¢â‚¬Â storyline. I dunno, it’s just weird.
– World Mid-Heavyweight title: Dick Steinborn v. Bruce Hart. Onto Bruce now, who Bret routinely slags in interviews as the worst worker of the bunch. By no small coincidence, Bruce is also the only one left who still routinely sucks up to Vince McMahon. Steinborn pounds away as we pick it up in the third fall (World title matches were routinely 2/3 falls). Steinborn grabs a chinlock and cheats to keep Bruce down. Bruce fights back as Steinborn misses a charge, and Bruce works the arm. Steinborn hides in the ropes, but goes low and hammers Bruce. Bruce comes back with a kneedrop for two and he pounds away, and a backdrop suplex gets two. Bruce charges and was probably supposed to miss, but hits, and they kind of stumble around a bit before Steinborn bails and posts Bruce. Back in, it gets two. Drop suplex gets two. Sleeper, and Bruce is in trouble (Steinborn won a previous fall with it), but makes the ropes. However, Steinborn holds it too long, and Bruce collapses in the ropes. The ref won’t count it because Bruce was in the ropes, and orders Steinborn to revive him. Bruce appears to be out cold, though, and while Steinborn protests, Bruce reveals to the crowd that he’s bird-dogging, and indeed when Steinborn goes for the kill, bing-bang-boom, small package, Bruce Hart wins the title at 7:34 aired. Slow match but a classic finish. *1/2
– World Mid-Heavyweight title: Bruce Hart v. Dynamite Kid. Kid’s looking a little more fleshed out here as we get into 1980. We pick this up in the second fall, with Kid having won the first one. Kid pounds away and drops an elbow. Headbutt and chops put Bruce down again and he’s bleeding freely. Cross-corner whip and elbow get two. Kid misses a charge, however, and Hart gets the CLOTHESLINE OF DOOM for the pin to even things up. They brawl outside and Bruce rams him into a nearby door, drawing an insane bladejob from the Kid. Bruce hammers him like a madman, but Kid goes low and heads up, missing his swandive headbutt. It’s like watching Benoit if he was 100 pounds lighter. Spooky. I mean, you always see guys being influenced by others, but if you took both headbutts and looked at them on a split screen, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Bruce piledrives him, but he’s in the ropes. Bruce tosses him, but mistakenly follows him out and gets suplexed on the concrete for his troubles. Sadly, this isn’t a match with the trademark Kid spot where he then goes to the top and misses a headbutt face-first onto the concrete. Seriously, Jeff Hardy needs to sit down and have a good long chat with Tommy Billington one of these days. Back in, Bruce comes back with a quick sunset flip for two. They collide and both go down, but Bruce gets a backdrop suplex and the Kid’s bump is jaw-droppingly sick, as he nearly folds himself in half after landing right on his head. Kid tries his own suplex, but Bruce reverses and cradles for two. They slug it out and the ref stops the match due to whatever at 4:42 aired. Dynamite Kid was insane. ***
– North American title: Bret Hart v. Leo Burke. I think Burke just died recently, come to think of it. We’re JIP about 30:00 in. Bret turns a backbreaker into something vaguely resembling a Sharpshooter, but Burke powers out. Bret gets a backdrop suplex and works on the arm, but Burke atomic drops him. Bret’s rollup is reversed for two. Burke hammers him down and gets an airplane spin, but both guys are dizzy and when Bret dumps Burke the match is stopped due to Burke being unable to continue. 3:03 aired. Nothing here. *
– Ladder match: Bret Hart v. Bad News Allen. From Stampede, 84ish. This is the match that Bret used to pitch the idea to Vince McMahon in 1992. We’re JIP about 5 minutes in, as usual for Stampede TV matches. Bret yanks Allen off the ladder and tosses him into it, then climbs. Allen dumps him to the corner and stomps away. Bret just impales him in the corner with the thing, then suplexes him. Slam, but an elbow misses (I don’t think he hit that elbow once before 1991) and Allen slams him on the ladder and then jams it into his gut. Allen works him in the corner, but charges and misses. Bret uses the bootlaces, but Bad News goes low. He climbs, but Bret trips him up and stomps his head a little. Bret climbs but the ref gets bumped as a result, allowing Evil Manager Du Jour Wakamatsu to knock the ladder over. A quick word on managers in Stampede: There was a LOT, and they tended to manage all the heels for a few weeks and then switch off to someone else. The most famous was Dynamite Kid’s manager J.R. Foley (no relation on either count), and the most irritating was one of the last: Wannabe wrestler Dr. Jonathan Holliday. My personal favorite was Drago Zhivago, just because it was such a cool name. Anyway, Bad News takes the opportunity to slam Bret on the floor and climb, but Dynamite runs in, knocks the ladder over, and Bret climbs up and takes the prize money to win at 6:28 shown. This match reads like a template for Shawn-Razor. **1/2
– North American title: Makhan Singh v. Owen Hart. Singh is Mike Shaw, who later went to WCW as Norman the Lunatic and then the WWF as Bastion Booger. Singh & Rotten Ron Starr did a monster sneak attack on Owen earlier in the evening, busting him open on the post and necessitating a substitute for Owen in the match, Johnny Smith. However, as the intros begin, Owen storms the ring, still bandaged up, and missile dropkicks Singh to take his rightful spot back. He slams Singh and pounds away. Kneedrop and the crowd is just going apeshit over him. Owen stomps him down and gets a suplex on the 350-pound Singh. Elbowdrop follows and Singh bails. Owen hauls him in and chokes him out with the bandages (poetic justice RULES!), and we’re clipped to Owen coming back with a moonsault press for two. Singh pounds him with the cast on his arm and tosses him. Owen climbs on the apron and gets another mouthful of plaster, but still manages a sunset flip for two. Makhan gives him a nasty backdrop and keeps clubbing away with the cast. Short-arm clothesline with it, but Owen fights back and ties Makhan in the ropes, then steals the cast. Singh fights free, but Owen just nails him with the cast, heads up, and finishes things with a fistdrop (augmented with the cast) for the pin and the title at 7:43. Owen gets the title, Makhan gets the proverbial taste of his own medicine, and the crowd goes home happy. I’ve seen the full match unclipped many times, and it’s quite awesome for the time and the people involved. ***1/2
– Lethal Larry Cameron v. Owen Hart. This is from the very last days of Stampede, when even Ed Whalen had abandoned ship and the announcing was being done by a generic babyface announcer and the horrifyingly awful heel manager Hugh Hart. Neither guy knows the first thing about wrestling or commentating and actually take away a lot from the match. Cameron pounds him down and hits the chinlock. He goes up, but misses a legdrop. Owen comes back with a dropkick and pounds away. Owen goes up with a bodypress for two. Suplex gets two. Gutwrench gets two. Elbow and he follows up with a flying version for two. Suplex, back up, this time Cameron gets the boots up and Owen is knocked silly. Sample of the in-depth commentary done by Hugh Hart: “This is the eye of the tiger meeting the bull in the woods, and while the tiger has the advantage right now, I’m pretty sure the bull will pull through in the end.Ã¢â‚¬Â Yeah, I can smell the bull all right. Cameron gets a nice flying shoulderblock for two. He picks up Owen, however, and then powerslams him for another two, again picking him up. That’s just asking for trouble. Cameron clotheslines him out and rams him into the announce table, but when he tries a bodyslam back into the ring, Owen pulls out the old Steamboat reversal for the pin at 6:28. Owen used to be so awesome when he gave a damn. ***
– The Stomper & JR Foley v. Bret & Stu Hart. Bret was getting beaten down by Stomper, and the old man made a surprise save from the audience to set this up. Stomper’s promo to actually set up the match is great. We’re JIP about 10:00 in as Stomper lives up to his name. Stu gives him a shot from the apron and tags in, pounding away with weak forearms. Stu just looks horrible here, at about 70 years old, overweight, wrinkled and broken down. For a moment I have to check my eyes to make sure it’s not Hulk Hogan in there. Stomper goes low to turn the tide, and Foley drops an elbow for two. Stu keeps taking him down, but gets caught in the corner and Stomper pounds the shit out of him. Stu doesn’t really sell, though, and tags Bret in. He cleans house, and the ref is bumped and thus misses Bret going over the top. Stu goes after both heels, but gets double-teamed and the whole thing is a wash at 5:01. Total trainwreck. Ã‚Â¼*
– Keith, Bruce & Bret Hart v. Dynamite Kid, Duke Myers & Hubert Gallant. Keith & Gallant start out, and Keith armdrags everything in sight. Suddenly it’s breaking loose in Tulsa, until Bret & Dynamite go. Kid takes an insane bump off a backdrop and Bret gets two. Bret forearms him and Keith comes in for some hairtosses. Dropkick and Kid bails to the corner, so Duke Myers can go. Keith pounds on him and they work him over in the Hart corner. Bret drops an elbow and we’re clipped to a big brawl, as it’s BONZO GONZO ALONZO. The heels collide and the ref is squished in the process, so a second ref comes in to count Keith’s pin on Dynamite at 4:20. Too bad that they cut the meat of the match out. *
The Bottom Line: Doubt you can find this stuff anywhere, but if you can, snap it up. The Owen and Dynamite Kid stuff is worth the price by itself, and there’s still more of those two guys to come.
Next up: Volume 3, High Flyers!